Reconstructive orthopedics is a surgical specialty focusing on rebuilding damaged bones and joints. Practitioners in this field can work with patients who have age-related joint damage, sports injuries, or a history of orthopedic trauma. Patients may need several surgeries to address an injury, followed by physical therapy to rebuild strength and flexibility. Training for careers in this field usually involves completing a surgical residency in orthopedics, and may include a fellowship specifically in reconstructive procedures.
Patients may need reconstructive treatments for a number of reasons, ranging from congenital disorders to injuries. Practitioners can replace and repair severely damaged skeletal structures in addition to rebuilding absent joints and bones in patients with birth defects. Specialists in reconstructive orthopedics can use a variety of tools to rebuild bones and joints. These include artificial joints made from metals and ceramics along with bone grafts, screws, and pins. Some surgeons focus on particular areas of the body, like the spine or ankles.
A referral to a specialist in this field may be made if a patient’s medical condition cannot be resolved by other means. The surgeon can review the patient’s records, request medical imaging studies to evaluate the area involved, and develop a surgical plan. Some reconstructive orthopedics procedures require a series of procedures to correct a problem, including a follow-up to remove pins after the patient has fully recovered. An extended relationship between patient and care provider may be necessary.
Research in this field is constantly ongoing. One area of particular concern in reconstructive orthopedics is the treatment of patients with age-related conditions. Older adults are at serious risk of fractures, particularly in the hips, and as people live longer, orthopedic injuries may become a potential quality of life issue. Surgeons are concerned with repairing injuries effectively to allow patients to return to normal activities if possible, or to retain independence if their injuries are too severe for a full recovery.
Sports injuries are also a subject of interest in reconstructive orthopedics. Athletes are at risk of bone and joint injuries that can potentially end a career. Surgeons who work with athletes need to consider the stressful nature of sports, in addition to normal skeletal development and needs. Patients may want to be able to compete after surgery and recovery, which can require complex surgical planning and recovery guidelines. Follow-up consultations can help the surgeon identify signs of complications that might hinder an athlete’s abilities.